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God at work in the Church

Frank thoughts on future directions

Will Braun
God at work in the Church | By Will Braun | Mar 11, 2015 | 1 comment

A quantifiable angst hangs in the church air these days. Mennonite Church Canada is in decline. There are exceptions and bright spots, but the trend has long been unmistakable.

The numbers, whether in dollars or heads, are likely a bit smaller this year than last. Donations to MC Canada were down by about $38,000 for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2015. Costs were trimmed by about the same amount. That counts as good news.

Executive director Willard Metzger says of the numbers, “This is positive as we continue to navigate through this extended period of uncertainty.”

‘Be not afraid’

Peter Rempel, right, board chair of MC Manitoba, welcomes Pinawa Christian Fellowship into membership at the annual delegate sessions on Feb. 27 and 28, 2015. Ken and Willa Reddig and Lorna Hiebert, at left, are part of the Mennonite subset of the fellowship. In the 1960s, the government created Pinawa for workers to build and service a newly established nuclear research facility. Christians from a variety of backgrounds and traditions established homes in the community and, rather than forming many little denominational groupings, they formed one body called Pinawa Christian Fellowship in 1963 to convey a message of Christian unity. (Photo by Evelyn Rempel Petkau)

God at work in the Church | By Evelyn Rempel Petkau | Mar 11, 2015

“Be not afraid“ was an apt theme for the 2015 annual delegate gathering of Mennonite Church Manitoba. Delegates were informed of a $234,647 deficit, the withdrawal of one their fellow member congregations (Plum Coulee Bergthaler Mennonite), an unknown future for camping ministry and scaled-down ministry programs.

“MC Manitoba had a difficult year this past year,” said Ken Warkentin, executive director, during the two-day event held on Feb. 27 and 28, 2015.

Unity has been broken

Tofield (Alta.) Mennonite Church.

God at work in the Church | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Mar 11, 2015 | 1 comment

In a letter dated Feb. 4, Tofield Mennonite Church notified the congregations of Mennonite Church Alberta that it had voted 94 percent in favour of withdrawing its membership from the area church. Congregational chair Brian Goerzen wrote that the congregation feels the basis for unity in the area church has been broken.

“We have come to understand that we view the Scriptures—the relevance, power, authority of the Scriptures themselves, and what they say about God, mankind, sin and salvation—very differently from the conference,” his letter stated, citing II Timothy 3:14-17.

‘Following Jesus today’

Delegates at Mennonite Church B.C.’s annual general meeting discuss future directions for the area church. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

God at work in the Church | By Amy Dueckman | Mar 11, 2015

With a focus on being missional and staying vibrant, healthy and connected, delegates and friends of Mennonite Church British Columbia gathered for annual sessions at Peace Mennonite Church on Feb. 20 and 21, 2015.

The Lead sessions on Feb. 20 featured guest speaker Dan Unrau, pastor and Mennonite Central Committee consultant, speaking on “Addressing power and authority in the church: Seeing that no one gets hurt and the work gets done.”

What is the purpose of the church?

Pictured from left to right: members of Rainham Mennonite Church—Dave Dick, congregational chair Charlie Roth, Mary Makey and Mary Roth. (Photo courtesy of Susan Kennel Harrison)

God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | Feb 25, 2015

When Rainham Mennonite Church, near Selkirk, Ont., was audited by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in the summer of 2014, the auditor wanted to see the congregation’s constitution. When it couldn’t find one, the church quickly developed a new one with four statements in the Purpose section of the document, two of which caught the CRA’s attention:

2. To receive and maintain a fund or funds, and to apply all or part of the principal and income therefrom, from time to time, to charitable organizations that are also registered charities under the Income Tax Act (Canada).

‘Where’s God in my song?’

God at work in the Church | By Donna Schulz | Feb 11, 2015

Music plays an important role in most teenagers’ lives. Through music they connect with peers and with issues that matter to them. Perhaps that’s why the Saskatchewan Mennonite Youth Organization (SMYO) chose “Where’s God in my song?” as the theme for its recent senior-high retreat.

A positive space to speak out

Pam Booker, left, Kelsey Dick and Rachel Loewen Walker were just some of the people who talked about sexuality and gender identity at Wildwood Mennonite Church's listening event on Jan 24, 2015. (Photo by Rachel Bergen)

God at work in the Church | By Rachel Bergen | Feb 11, 2015

It was a “magical” and “spirit-filled” Jan. 24, 2015, evening for many who attended a Wildwood Mennonite Church event, held to provide a positive space for members of the lesbian/gay/bisexual/ transgender/queer (LGBTQ) community, family and friends to tell their stories and be vulnerable with each other. Some people felt safe to share publicly, even those who have had no connection to a church in many years. 

From Africa to Saskatchewan

The Asante Children’s Choir sings with feeling “He Knows my Name” during a recent performance at Eigenheim Mennonite Church.

God at work in the Church | By Story and Photo by Donna Schulz | Jan 28, 2015

Enthusiastic singing, energetic danc-ing and electrifying drumming set the tone as the Asante Children’s Choir worshipped African-style with Eigenheim Mennonite Church congregants, near Rosthern, Sask. on Jan. 18. Although not their typical Sunday fare, the congregation responded warmly to the choir’s music.

The 15 singers, ranging in age from 12 to 16, have been touring western Canada since last September, broadening their own horizons as well as those of their Canadian audiences.

‘It felt like a big deal . . . it was so powerful’

Craig Friesen and Matthew Wiens of Nutana Park Mennonite Church, Saskatoon, were married by pastors Patrick Preheim, left, and Anita Retzlaff on New Years Eve at Osler (Sask.) Mennonite Church.

God at work in the Church | By Story and Photos by Rachel Bergen | Jan 06, 2015 | 21 comments

Craig Friesen and Matthew Wiens rang in 2015 by joining their hands and committing their lives to one another in front of friends and family at a New Year’s Eve wedding, the first same-sex wedding to ever be publicly officiated by Mennonite Church Canada pastors.

Wiens and Friesen, who attend Nutana Park Mennonite Church in Saskatoon, were married by their co-pastors Anita Retzlaff and Patrick Preheim, at Osler Mennonite Church, where Friesen is a member.

Buffalo shout, Mennonites discuss

MC Saskatchewan participants in the five-session discussion of Steve Heinrichs’s book Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry grapple with the complexities of indigenous/settler relations. Pictured from left to right: Craig Neufeld, Cheryl Woelk, Bernie Thiessen and Larry Epp.

God at work in the Church | By Story and Photo by Donna Schulz | Dec 24, 2014

They met in the library at Rosthern Mennonite Church, a good place for a book discussion group to meet. It wasn’t a typical book discussion group, but then they weren’t discussing a typical book.

The book they discussed was Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry, a collection of essays, poems and readings by both indige-nous and settler writers. Published by Herald Press, the book is edited by Steve Heinrichs, Mennonite Church Canada’s indigenous relations director.

RJC envisions a bigger, better school

Rosthern Junior College student council representatives Kelsey Dueck, left, Kylee Kosokowsky, Joseph Hachachena, Kelsi Siemens and Brandon Janzen hold up a $5,000 cheque to kick off the school’s five-year ‘Do more. Be more’ fundraising campaign.

God at work in the Church | By Story and photo by Donna Schulz | Dec 10, 2014

“Do more. Be more.” These words sound a little like the mantra of a motivational speaker. They are, in fact, the name given to a new five-year strategic fundraising plan for Rosthern Junior College (RJC). The plan includes the ambitious goal of raising  $1.5 million to be allocated toward three clearly defined strategies:

CMU opens Marpeck Commons

An external view of the new Marpeck Commons at Canadian Mennonite University.

God at work in the Church | By Story and photos by Evelyn Rempel Petkau | Dec 10, 2014 | 2 comments

For the past year-and-a-half, residents of Winnipeg have watched as Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) built a pedestrian bridge linking its north and south campuses over a busy thoroughfare. On Nov. 29, as CMU was preparing to open the doors for the public to view the new facility, the excitement was palpable.

Staff of Mennonite Church Canada and CMU eagerly and warmly welcomed visitors to the bright, spacious building that conveys a simple elegance and much careful thought in its design. Careful thought was also given to the name: Marpeck Commons.

MC Manitoba approves 2015 budget in principle

Peter Rempel, left, chair of the MC Manitoba board, addresses delegates at Bethel Mennonite Church in Winnipeg on Nov. 6. Treasurer Tom Seals looks on.

God at work in the Church | By Story and Photo by Evelyn Rempel Petkau | Nov 19, 2014

Despite falling short of a quorum, delegates attending Mennonite Church Manitoba’s fall gathering on Nov. 6 gave the board strong affirmation for its 2015 proposed budget.

The budget as presented calls for the same amount—$645,000—from congregations as the 2014 budget.

“Our thinking behind that was that we have all the indications that our giving is levelling out, said Ken Warkentin, the area church’s executive director. “We can’t expect any more and we can’t do with any less.”

Being a Faithful Church 6

God at work in the Church | By General Board, Mennonite Church Canada | Nov 05, 2014

Mennonite Church Canada’s General Board offers BFC 6 in a follow-up to delegate discussions at Assembly 2014, which took place in Winnipeg from July 3 to 6, 2014.

Background

Equipped to listen, but not to agree

Jerry Buhler, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s area church minister, standing, and his wife Kara visit with John Bartel of North Star Mennonite Church in Drake at the Equipping Day event in Saskatoon on Oct. 25.

God at work in the Church | By Story and Photo by Donna Schulz | Nov 05, 2014

“Jesus, help us live in peace,” people sang at the outset of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s “Equipping to listen” event, expressing the sorrow—but also the hope—of a church deeply divided.

Sexuality is about more than just sex

Keith Graber Miller, a professor of religion and sexuality at Goshen (Ind.) College, speaks to the public on ‘Faithful sexuality’ at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate, Kitchener, Ont., on Oct. 1.

God at work in the Church | By Story and Photo by Dave Rogalsky | Oct 22, 2014

Rockway Mennonite Collegiate decided that not only did it need to focus on sexuality for its students in grades 7 to 12, but it needed to invite the community, including Canadian Mennonite, to hear what was being presented and to have an opportunity to respond.

Lessons from those who left

Springs Church in Winnipeg is one of Canada’s most successful and success-oriented mega churches, where an ex-Hutterite, Phil Kleinsasser—his suspenders, beard and plaid long gone—serves as an assistant pastor.

God at work in the Church | By By Will Braun | Oct 22, 2014 | 1 comment

Phil Kleinsasser urged the faithful to "sow" their money in the offering plate in order to “reap” abundance in all areas of their lives. Kleinsasser, of course, is a Hutterite surname, but his admonition came not in an austere colony chapel, but at Springs Church, one of Canada's most successful and success-oriented mega churches, where Kleinsasser—his suspenders, beard and plaid long gone—serves as an assistant pastor.

Creating beauty out of randomness

Participants at the Shekinah Retreat Centre’s Quilting and Scrapbooking Retreat gather for a group photo on their final day together. Many of the women are holding items they crafted during the three-day event.

God at work in the Church | By Story and Photos by Donna Schulz | Oct 08, 2014

Assembling random pieces of fabric or paper to create something beautiful is what quilters and scrapbookers do. And they do it with gusto at the Shekinah Retreat Centre’s annual Quilting and Scrapbooking Retreat. This year, “Random pieces into beautiful creations” was also the theme chosen for the retreat by speaker Sharon Schultz.

Schultz, who is pastor of Eyebrow Mennonite Church, is neither a quilter nor a scrapbooker, but puts her creative energy into writing sermons. She said that sermon-writing is not unlike other creative endeavours.

How do pastors keep the Sabbath?

Emily Toews of North Star Mennonite Church in Drake, and Kirsten Hamm, MC Saskatchewan area church youth minister, relax on the dock at Churchill River Canoe Outfitters as Craig Neufeld of Rosthern Mennonite Church and Jerry Buhler, MC Saskatchewan area church minister, stand nearby.

God at work in the Church | By Story and Photo by Donna Schulz | Sep 24, 2014

“I would rather be out here thinking about God than in church thinking about paddling.”

The slogan on Ric Driediger’s T-shirt bears witness to his preferred way of spending the Lord’s Day. The veteran canoe guide and member of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s Pastoral Leadership Commission, welcomed pastors and their spouses to a time of Sabbath rest at Churchill River Canoe Outfitters in Missinipe, Sask., from Sept. 2 to 5, for the area church’s annual fall pastors gathering.

Changes coming to MC Manitoba

Rianna Isaak

God at work in the Church | By By Evelyn Rempel Petkau | Sep 10, 2014

Much time and energy at the Mennonite Church Manitoba office was directed this summer to helping host the MC Canada general assembly and Native Assembly 2014. With these two significant events now history, MC Manitoba is looking at critical changes in its own structure, programming and staffing.

Henry Kliewer, director of Leadership Ministries, will be retiring Sept. 30, after serving in this capacity for six years.

Camp Valaqua builds for the future

It takes a lot of hands to raise a cabin wall! Families work together on the Mennonite Disaster Service cabin-building project at Camp Valaqua.

God at work in the Church | By Story and Photos by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Aug 28, 2014

Camp programs were in full swing alongside Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) hammers at Camp Valaqua this summer. MDS teams are usually found on disaster sites, helping to rebuild homes, so why are they building cabins at a thriving church camp? And why are there children wearing hardhats, pounding nails and using staple guns?

Celebrating summer fun together

Sometimes one needs to step over the line in order to score a hit, as this youngster discovers at MC Saskatchewan’s ‘day in the park’ in Saskatoon last month.

God at work in the Church | By Story and Photos by Donna Schulz | Aug 28, 2014

The sun shone, the air was warm—but not too warm—and there were no mosquitoes. It was, in fact, a day perfect for a picnic.

On Aug. 10, people of all ages gathered at Scott Park, adjacent to Mount Royal Mennonite Church in Saskatoon, to enjoy Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s “day in the park.”

Taking fun and faith on the road

God at work in the Church | By Story and Photos by Donna Schulz | Aug 22, 2014

The pews are pushed together along the walls while in the middle of the sanctuary children play an energetic game of Duck, Duck, Goose. Vacation Bible School (VBS) is in session at Eyebrow Mennonite Church.

For several years, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan has employed a travelling VBS troupe to bring summer Christian education to rural and urban congregations alike.

More evidence of sexual abuse uncovered

A Mennonite Church U.S.A. discernment group addressing sexual abuse by the late theologian John Howard Yoder has reported finding additional evidence of abuse.

After a June 3, 2014, meeting in Elkhart, the group said it had found more documentation of Yoder’s abuse of women, including fondling and sexual intercourse. The many women Yoder wronged included students, missionaries and church workers.

The group accessed previously unexamined institutional and personal files, including memos by Yoder.

Works of John Howard Yoder now available online

An online digital library containing nearly 250 unpublished, informally published and popular works by theologian John Howard Yoder is now available for scholars and students around the world.

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